Just as in 2012 Orica-AIS opened the European season with a big win. Cromwell outsprinted Megan Guarnier of Rabobank- Liv/Giant to take the biggest win of her career. Emma Johansson completed the success for Orica,taking third from the sprint behind the two escapees.
The Women raced in some freezing conditions with strong headwinds for much of the race making breakaways hard to pull off. Indeed the peloton stayed together well into the race with the Cote de Trieu managing to cause a split into several groups but only to see it come back together. Just as in the the men's race it was the headwinds and the flat cobblesections in the finale that were to make the difference. A final selection was instigated by Chantal Blaak of Tibco and she was joined by a twelve of the bigger favorites for the race with Orica, Tibco, Hitec and Rabobank all well represented.
Cromwell then used the run in into Gent to get away and she was joined by Megan Guarnier, riding her first big race for her new team Rabobank, and the two managed to co-operate well enough to stay away from the group behind. In the sprint Cromwell rode away early and easily as Guarnier, normally a strong sprinter, confessed she had very little left to fight with. Clearly the extraordinary conditions played their part in the outcome, just as they are supposed to in these spring classics.
The race result was a confirmation of the pre-race predictions that Orica were the team to beat. They tried repeatedly already in Qatar to make their multiple attack strategy work for them but conditions weren't favorable then. Today the strategy panned out perfectly as they placed Cromwell, Johansson, Gunnewijk as well as Gracie Elvin in her first big euro race for Orica. So when Cromwell went her opponents were pretty much checkmate with 3 more Oricas ready to counter should the race come back together. Tibco-To the top also look like they will be stepping in among the top teams with Blaak once again one of the major animators and Olds proving that she is way more than merely a sprinter.
Losing out today was Hitec Products who has had good luck in the opening race before. They had team leader Elisa Longo Borghini in the lead group but she finished at the bottom of it. All was not dark though as they had new recruit Rosella Ratto away in a promising attack with 50 km to go, proving that she is well prepared to play a big part already this year.
Video from the race was even more scarce than usually. Sporza showed the sprint in their summary of the day but can't be arsed to put it on their website. They did put up a short interview though here.
Final Top 10:
|4.||RBW||Annemiek van Vleuten|
|6.||SLU||Ellen van Dijk|
|8.||SLT||Anna van der Breggen|